The UK has announced it will be easing the post-Brexit entry rules for French children coming on school trips.
With the completion of Brexit, EU travel rules stopped applying between UK and the bloc, meaning that people can no longer travel using only their national ID cards, but require a passport instead. Moreover, non-EU citizens living in the EU also need to apply for a visa before travelling, in addition to having a passport.
As of 28 December, these rules will be reverted for French children travelling on school trips, according to euronews. French minors will be able to travel only with their national IDs while non-EU citizens in the same group will only require a passport, but not visa.
For the exemptions to apply, the school has to show they are travelling as a group with at least 5 pupils and the school or educational institution has to be registered with the French Ministry of Education.
The revision of entry rules comes after school trips, which contributed about £100 million (€116.4 million) per year to the UK economy pre-Brexit fell by 83% in 2022 compared to 2019, according to research from the Tourism Alliance. As EU citizens can travel within the bloc with their national IDs, having to get a passport costing €86 sometimes impeded parents from letting their children on school trips. Moreover, some of the non-EU citizens could get their visas rejected. Since leaving part of the class behind was not an option, many trips to the UK ultimately got cancelled.
“I am happy to know that no more children will be sidelined because of their nationality”, Edward Hisbergues, the director of PG Trips, a travel company with clients who suffered under the post-Brexit regime, told the Financial Times. “I am happy to know that France and the United Kingdom are getting closer again. This will inevitably change the image of the country.”
The change in rules follows a meeting between UK Prime Minister Ra Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron in March. Among others, the two discussed cooperation and policy exchanges on school education, facilitation of school trips and exchanges, including in the field of vocational education, and the expansion of opportunities for language learning.
On school travel, the United Kingdom committed to ease the travel of school groups to the UK by making changes to documentary requirements for schoolchildren on organised trips from France. France also committed to ensuring appropriate mechanisms are in place for visa free travel for children travelling on organised school trips from the United Kingdom and to facilitating the passage of those groups through the border.
The exchange with France is meant to be a trial. If things go well, the entry rule exemptions for school trips will be extended to all EU Member States.